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When a woman is found dead from a shotgun blast outside her boyfriend’s home, police rule her death a suicide, but her parents believe she was murdered.
On February 4th, 1986, at 7:53 p.m., a single shotgun blast ripped through a quiet Roanoke, Virginia, neighborhood. When police arrived, they found a woman’s body on the ground next to a car. Twenty-one year-old Rae Ann Mossor was pronounced dead at the scene with a shotgun wound to the chest. M. David Hooper was the chief of police for the City of Roanoke:
When police questioned Rae Ann’s boyfriend, he said that he and Rae Ann had an argument that ended with her saying, “What do I have to do to prove my love for you”? She then ran out the door. Three witnesses said she had threatened to kill herself. The police found no evidence of foul play and her death was ruled a suicide.
But Rae Ann’s parents believe they’ve found evidence proving that she was murdered, and they want an investigation. Ann Mossor is Rae Ann’s mother:
When they examined police reports, Rae Ann’s parents discovered evidence that cast doubt on suicide as the cause of death. Rae Ann’s car was parked directly across the street from where she died. They discovered her car door was wide open, music was blaring from the radio, and her key was still in the ignition. She seemed to have left the car in a hurry.
The police found the 12-gauge shotgun lying on the trunk of the car. Rae Ann’s parents believe that if Rae Ann had shot herself, the weapon would have fallen to the ground beside her body. According to Ann Mossor, Rae Ann’s arm measured 29 inches, but the distance from the trigger of the shotgun to the muzzle was 36 inches:
On the night of Rae Ann’s death, authorities told her parents there would be an autopsy. Two weeks later, Ann Mossor says, she and Ron discovered that it had never been performed or even requested. The Mossors had Rae Ann’s body exhumed. Finally, six months after her death, an autopsy was performed by Dr. David Oxley, the original medical examiner.
According to Oxley’s report, Rae Ann was killed by a contact wound to the chest, meaning the muzzle of the gun was against her skin. In addition, powder burns were found on Rae Ann’s left wrist. After the autopsy, the medical examiner declined to change the ruling of “suicide.” Ann Mossor wasn’t satisfied:
The Mossors contacted Dr. John Butts, the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of North Carolina. Dr. Butts said his conclusions differed significantly from the findings of the autopsy:
Based on Dr. Butts’ findings, the medical examiner officially changed the manner of death from “suicide” to “pending.” Still, Ann Mossor says, there was no investigation:
The Mossors set out to get a third opinion. They contacted Dr. Vincent DiMaio, one of the country’s leading forensic scientists:
According to test performed by Dr. DiMaio and an assistant, Dr. DiMaio showed that it was physically impossible for Rae Ann to have shot herself in the chest:
Again, the Mossors asked for the investigation to be reopened. Again, their request was denied. Ronald Mossor is Rea Ann’s father:
The Mossors next contacted R.J. Breglio, a ballistics investigator. He tried to figure out if Rae Ann could have accidentally discharged the gun by dropping it on the ground or hitting it against the car in anger. According to Breglio:
Again, the Mossors sent the new evidence to Donald Caldwell, the Commonwealth Attorney, and requested that the case be reopened. According to Ann Mossor,
Three years after Rae Ann died, the state medical examiner changed the manner of death to “undetermined.” There has still been no investigation, and the medical examiner and Commonwealth Attorney declined to be interviewed for this story.